Fukushima is the disaster that just won’t quit. And the radiation is off the charts…even now. The utility company that operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, before it went into triple meltdown after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has just released some daunting figures about the radiation level. According to reports, the level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 has reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour—a monumental increase than what was recorded previously. Tepco has suggested that some melted fuel has escaped.
At this level of radioactivity, a person could die from the briefest exposures, and a robot would be able to operate for less than two hours before it was destroyed. Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences says the exposure to one sievert of radiation is enough to lead to infertility, loss of hair and cataracts, and four sieverts would kill half the people exposed to it.
Analysts encourage people not to freak out quite yet. Though the radiation level is “astoundingly high,” it doesn’t necessarily signify ‘any alarming change in radiation levels at Fukushima.’ Instead, it’s the first time they have been measured so far inside the reactor. Others are concerned.
“It will be very difficult to operate robots in there for a long time to come, and to remove the melted fuel,” Fumiya Tanabe, a nuclear safety expert says. “So the finding might greatly affect the decommissioning time schedule.”
Tepco had been hoping to start taking the fuel out in 2021.
“…The time frame to start taking out the fuel in 2021 will most likely be delayed as more investigation will be necessary,” Hideyuki Ban, co-director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, said. He also cautioned against overacting.
Source: Washington Post, USA Today